The Valdosta Daily Times
— The Valdosta State Blazers lost to West Alabama 24-21 last Thursday. The Blazers had to wait until Sunday to learn their playoff fate. VSU ended up as the No. 3 seed from Super Region 2, and will host No. 6 North Alabama on Saturday at 1 p.m. Blazers head coach David Dean said waiting for the announcement between Thursday and Sunday made for a long weekend.
— Dean said the Blazers watched the Division II playoff selection show as a team at the VSU athletic fieldhouse. Dean was not impressed with the coverage ESPNews provided. He expressed disappointment with the 15 minutes of coverage given to the Dallas-New York game and the Manny Pacquiao fight, only to get a glimpse of the playoff selection. Dean said ESPNews blew by it, and that it was a shame for the Division II players who were waiting to hear about their teams.
— Dean said, in his opinion, Fort Valley State should have made the playoffs. He said that, to his understanding, the Super Region 2 committee did not put North Alabama in the top six, but the national committee overturned the decision and put UNA sixth.
— UNA finished the season 8-3. Dean guaranteed that if the Blazers finished the season 8-3, they would not have made the playoffs.
— Dean said North Alabama is a good team and deserved to make the playoffs. He said UNA’s strength of schedule was a determining factor in making the postseason.
— Dean said it bothers him that the Super Region 2 playoffs have turned into a mini-GSC tournament. The VSU-UNA winner will play at Delta State in the second round. Dean said players aren’t rewarded in that format, because they’ve already played those teams, and deserve to prove themselves against new teams.
— Dean said VSU and UNA are two physical, athletic and fast teams that don’t like each other, and that’s what GSC and playoff football is all about.
— Dean said people have already started congratulating the Blazers on a good season as if it’s going to end on Saturday. Dean added that people aren’t giving the Blazers a chance, but that’s the way they like it.
— Valdosta Mayor John Fretti joined the show and issued an executive order that all fans and their families are encouraged to show up at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium to cheer for the Blazers on Saturday. Fretti gave Dean a commemorative coin, and asked that he carry it during the game for good luck. Dean was very thankful, and said he would share the news and the coin with his players.
— Radio show host David Schmidt pointed out that Blazers public address announcer Matt Malone has to remain neutral during the game, and cannot announce the game in his normal pro-VSU style. Schmidt said the Blazers will have to rely on the fans to cheer them on.
— Dean said he hopes for a great crowd, but no matter how many people show up, the Blazers are going to play their rear ends off for TitleTown USA.
— North Alabama made the playoffs despite a 29-28 loss to Harding on Saturday. In that game, Harding turned the ball over seven times. Dean said if the Blazers do that, then they won’t win.
— Dean said the Blazers are getting healthier, but they’re not where they need to be. He said reserve linebacker Brett Sudduth was lost for the season with a torn ACL suffered at West Alabama. The only other significant injury at West Alabama was a shoulder injury suffered by running back David Bailey. Dean said the Blazers will need Bailey’s downhill attack against UNA. Bailey rushed for over 100 yards against UNA earlier this season.
— The Blazers are playing in the first round of the playoffs because they lost to West Alabama, which cost them a bye. Dean said that VSU’s two strengths this season, defense and special teams, didn’t play well. VSU had two extra points and field goal blocked, and the defense gave up big plays and couldn’t get off the field on third down in the second half.
— Austen Roberts’ Hail Mary pass to Stevie Harden at the end of the game was knocked down. Dean said the West Alabama defensive back “made a tremendous tackle” that kept Harden from getting to the ball.
— Dean said the contact made by the defensive back was smart, because Harden beat him deep. Dean said it turned out to be very smart because a flag wasn’t thrown.
— David Arnold became VSU’s third 100-yard rusher of the season at West Alabama. Dean, who coaches the running backs, said the backs are a very unselfish group. He said they all know their roles. He compared himself to a basketball coach going with the hot hand, and Arnold had the hot hand last Thursday.
— Despite the loss to West Alabama, VSU is still the Gulf South Conference champions, along with Delta State and Henderson State. Dean said he told his players that winning the Gulf South Conference was a great accomplishment. He called the GSC one of the toughest conferences in Division II.
— Dean said he is proud of his players for overcoming some things that were beyond their control this season, and that he is pleased to be one of the 24 out of 148 Division II teams to make the playoffs.